Prologues – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly!

imagesI have a prologue in one of my works in progress, but I have questioned if I should keep it or not, and at one time deleted it. Why, because like many of you, I ‘ve heard that prologues are out. Most agents hate them.

I’m still contemplating if I should keep the prologue in my story or not. It raises questions, conveys some sense of mystery, and launches the reader into the story in a compelling way. I think it adds to the story and provides need-to-know information.

Prologues aren’t all bad. They can help or hinder your book, according to Ryan G. Van Cleave,  Writer’s Digest.

Good Prologues

  • Raise questions, convey some sense of mystery, launch us into the story in a compelling way.
  • Operate like blurry first memories of childhood that are also deep with stain.
  • Foreshadow
  • A well-wrought prologue paired with a thoughtful epilogue gives a nice bookend feel to your novel.

Bad Prologues

  • Are used for info-dumps
  • Mislead the reader. They give the reader a false impression of how the story will go.
  • Rely on the prologue to set the mood.
  • Too long
  • Not starting off Strong.

So what’s the answer? Do we or do we not use Prologues? There isn’t a one size fits all to this question. The choice must be made on an individual basis using the best sense of what makes your story work. With that in mind, most professionals would say leave it out.

Maybe the best solution, and the one I’m working on, is to incorporate my prologue into the story by making it Chapter One.

Something to think about.

-Jan R


Prologues – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly!

You Can Break These Rules Too!

largeWrite what you know

You can write about stuff you know nothing about as long as you can pull it off and make it believable. By using the internet, you have the world at our fingertips. A luxury that wasn’t available to your predecessors.

Write everyday

I would love to write every day, but I have had to deal with some major crisis in the past few months that have interrupted my daily routine and superseded my wishes. Life happens. Give yourself a break. Forcing yourself to write every day doesn’t mean it’s good writing. I would say you need to aspire to write every day. Think of it as a goal and not as a requirement.

Kill your darlings

During the editing process, we have all heard cut, cut, and cut again. I wrote a blog on it a while back. You should edit your manuscript removing unnecessary, mundane sentences/paragraphs, but that doesn’t mean you have to delete any and every sentence or paragraph that isn’t doing the work of moving your story toward the ultimate goal. It’s okay to add a scene/ paragraph/ sentence that’s funny, beautiful, or clever, but it has to keep your readers’ attention and be seamlessly incorporated into your story.

Invest in a Thesaurus

This is a great tool to use when used correctly. We don’t want to repeat a word over and over. It doesn’t read well and can become distracting. The Thesaurus provides a list of alternatives for the word you are using. The problem is a lot of newer writers don’t choose your ordinary everyday words. They want to look smart, so they choose the million dollar word that leaves there reader scratching their head and wondering what the author was trying to say.

Never write a prologue

I’ve heard this one and actually pulled the prologue from my novel. I didn’t delete it, because I continue the debate of putting it back. Why did I remove it? I’ve been told agents don’t like prologues and they shout amateur. With this being said, I have read prologues in the books of successful authors.

So when is a prologue okay? When it serves a purpose.

Avoid the passive voice

I wrote a blog a while back on staying active. As a rule, you should stay active, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write anything in the passive voice. If you’re using good grammar, it’s bound to happen on occasion 🙂 The passive voice is another tool that you can use during the writing process, if you know how to use it. An example would be your desire to share information without getting into specifics…Things were misplaced. Mistakes were made.

The idea for this blog came from an article I read in Writers Digest written by Jeff Somers. We all want to be good writers and follow the rules, but like many of you, I do question the validity of rules, and have broken a few 🙂

-Jan R

You Can Break These Rules Too!